• St. Aidan's

To build and to plant - Michael Van Dusen |Feb 3, 2019|

God called Jeremiah in 627 BCE, when the kingdom of Judah was threatened by the Babylonians and about 30 years before the beginning of the Babylonian exile.

Jeremiah thought of himself as a lowly person, not the kind of person God would use.  Yet the divine call came to him.  This morning’s first reading (Jeremiah 1:4-10) tells the story of that call.

Now the word of the Lord came to me saying, This clear experience of God’s call is extraordinary.

 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,  “Knowing” him meant also that God chose him.

and before you were born I consecrated you; 

I appointed you a prophet to the nations.” Jeremiah’s mission was not only to the Israelites but to all the nations. This mission is repeated in verse 10 below.

Then I said, “Ah, Lord God! Truly I do not know how to speak, for I am only a boy.”  Like Moses before him (Exodus 4:10), Jeremiah doubted his abilities.

 But the Lord said to me,

“Do not say, ‘I am only a boy’;  Samuel, too, was only a boy when God called him, (1 Sam 3)

for you shall go to all to whom I send you,

and you shall speak whatever I command you.

Do not be afraid of them,

for I am with you to deliver you,  God assured Jeremiah of his continuing presence, even in adversity.

Then the Lord put out his hand and touched my mouth, and the Lord said to me,

   “Now I have put my words in your mouth.  Jeremiah would speak God’s words.

See, today I appoint you over nations and over kingdoms,  The mandate included more than Israel.

to pluck up and to pull down,.

to destroy and to overthrow,

      to build and to plant.”

These three lines define Jeremiah’s God-given purpose. God’s commission was to destroy evil, to uproot it, then to build anew and replant afresh according to God’s intention.


This is an “incarnational” story. God uses humans and human words to convey his divine message. God also knows that this message will not be welcomed by all.  He said do not be afraid because he knew that others would menace Jeremiah.

As he went about fulfilling God’s mission, Jeremiah encountered much opposition. Their rejection was not just social. They burned his scrolls and beat him. Jeremiah was rejected for his message in life as Jesus would be later, as in the story in this morning’s gospel.


Like Jeremiah, a humble person whom God raised up to be a great prophet, Jesus was a humble person from Nazareth. So much so, that his neighbours thought that they knew all about him.

Today’s gospel reading (Luke 4:210-30) is a continuation of the gospel story of last week in which Jesus was handed the scroll of Isaiah and found the part that read,

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,

    because he has anointed me

        to bring good news to the poor.

He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives

    and recovery of sight to the blind,

        to let the oppressed go free,

to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. Then he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth.

Yet, like Jeremiah, Jesus also came

To pluck up and to pull down,

to destroy and to overthrow,

      to build and to plant.”

Perhaps referring to Jeremiah, Jesus said, Truly I tell you, no prophet is accepted in the prophet’s hometown.

So it would be. This morning’s gospel ends with the words, when they heard this, all in the synagogue were filled with rage. They got up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they might hurl him off the cliff. But he passed through the midst of them and went on his way.


How does God call you? Is it as clear as the call to Moses, Samuel, Jeremiah or Paul? Or does it come from your family’s incarnation of God’s word, raising you as a Christian? Does it come from the example of someone in the community? From a teacher? From reading scripture?Jeremiah’s mandate was a two-edged sword. One part was to pluck up and to pull down, to destroy and to overthrow, the other was to build and to plant. To which part do you feel the strongest urge to pay attention?Can you recall a time when someone told you a difficult truth? What were some of the reactions you experienced? Were you filled with rage? How did you eventually come to terms with the truth?


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